Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Local US politicians avoid Modi, do not attend Indian community reception, as 3,000 protest at San Jose

By Our Representative
Facts trickling in from San Jose, California, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a massive 18,000-strong Indian community reception on September 27, suggest that local politicians avoided going to the high-profile event, though invited. Around 3,000 anti-Modi protesters gathered outside the SAP Center, where Modi addressed the Indian diaspora.
Says Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA), which organized protests against Modi's alleged “anti-minority” stances and “attacks” on dissent and freedom of expression, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, in whose district the event took place, "chose not to attend."
Congressman Honda, who has the largest number of Indian American constituents, issued a statement stating that he was “well aware of the controversy that surrounds Prime Minister Modi’s visit…I will neither overlook nor forget my duty to be a strong advocate for human rights.”
Ro Khanna, who is running against Honda, issued a statement saying the US-India partnership “must be rooted in a respect for civic dissent, for human rights, for a robust public square that engages NGOs, and for religious tolerance and liberty.”
AJA said it ran an outreach campaign to local elected officials, educating them on Modi’s “failed” civil rights record, adding, “Many subsequently declined the Modi invite.”
The anti-Modi protesters, said AJA, carried “posters, chants, and surprise banners” to “challenge the Modi PR team’s attempts to whitewash the controversial politician’s record”. The crowds of protesters filling up the designated protest zones and sidewalks in front of the SAP Center belonged mainly to the minority groups, especially Indian Muslims, Sikhs and Sikhs, also also those who stood by women’s rights, caste, digital freedom, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice.
Bhajan Singh, a community leader with the AJA, said, “People came from cities as far away as Los Angeles. The numbers are a testament to the strong feelings that Modi evokes because of his poor record on religious rights, women’s rights, caste, digital freedom, LGBTQ equality, and environmental justice.”
“Protesters enacted a 'die in' to dramatize the attacks against Muslims, Christians, Dalits, women, and other communities that are occurring with increasing frequency under the Modi administration. As in India, Modi die-hards threatened and attacked protesters, including Dalit and LGBTQ Indians, leaving them shaken”, AJA said.
Said Virali Modi-Parekh, “Modi talks about Digital India, while ignoring millions of Digital Indians demanding an end to Internet censorship, restrictions on online privacy, and arrests of social media users.”
Added Neil Tangri, “Since 2014, the Modi government has tried to shut down Indian civil society organizations, including targeting frontline groups, cracking down thousands of NGOs like Greenpeace India and the Sierra Club, and intimidating journalists who expose inconvenient facts.” 
“It’s important to compare Narendra Modi’s words versus his actions,” explained Sabiha Basrai of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action. “This is a man being praised for tweeting #SelfieWithDaughter, even though he actually slashed funding for the Ministry of Women and Child Development by 50 per cent just months before.”
Imam Zaid Shakir said, “Modi was banned from the United States by successive administrations for his egregious human rights violations. Winning an election doesn’t change the facts.”
A week before Modi’s arrival, Silicon Valley residents started mailing packages of Purell hand sanitizer to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, so he could wash off the stain after shaking hands with Narendra Modi, who was accused by Human Rights Watch of presiding over the killings of about 2,000 Muslims in 2002.
Over 250 bottles were sent to Zuckerberg; each package was dedicated to a named victim of the Gujarat pogroms. AJA is an Indian American coalition working to address “attacks” on Indian communities, claiming to stand up for India’s religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, marginalized castes, Dalits, and adivasis, and for a safe and clean environment, free speech, digital freedom, and the right to openly debate and disagree.

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